DP13512 Tax administration and compliance: evidence from medieval Paris

Author(s): Al Slivinski, Nathan Sussman
Publication Date: February 2019
Date Revised: February 2019
Keyword(s): compliance, evasion, Fairness, institutions, middle ages, Paris, taxation
JEL(s): H2, H21, H26, N13, N43
Programme Areas: Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=13512

We analyze the Parisian taille of the late 13th century - a taxation mechanism used to finance periodic major expenditures by the French Crown, including wars. Our major finding is that this system was remarkably successful along a number of dimensions, in an environment without the administrative structures used by contemporary governments. The taille's essential features were; an agreement between the king and city government to collect a fixed amount of revenue, and a collection process that made use of information about taxpayers held by their fellow artisans and/or neighbors. We show that it collected considerable sums without social unrest, with high levels of compliance, and administrative costs that were low even by modern standards. We also argue that its success may have lessons for improved tax collection and compliance in contemporary less-developed economies.